The wait may be longer, but the results are likely encouraging, That’s because draft selections of the Arizona Coyotes are beginning to transition into production.
Sure, this team is buried near the bottom of the NHL’s Western Conference and the light at the end of the tunnel was extinguished long ago. In particular, left wing Brendan Perlini, who started the season in the minors, shows the hope and promise club officials initially saw on his 2014 draft day.
When Perlini buried a 20-foot wrist shot early in the second period for the only goal in the Coyotes 1-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche Monday night in the Gila River Arena before 11,521, the future struck as brightly as the red goal light. The marker was Perlini’s 13th of the season, and a tally in his third straight game.
Snapping A Deadly Wrist Shot
What could be Perlini’s signature shot, the 20-year-old snapped that deadly wrist past Calvin Pickard from inside the left face-off circle. It appears Perlini is becoming comfortable skating down the left wing and finding the back of the net with regularity.
“I don’t know if that’s becoming my signature shot,” Perlini told The Hockey Writers afterward and referenced the wrister. “I’m shooting the puck and whatever is the quickest way to go to the net, that’s where I’m going.”
The goal puts Perlini near the top of production by NHL rookies. Scoring in his third consecutive game, Perlini is tied for third among first-year players who have skated in at least 32 games and has a .30 goals/game average.
Drafted as a goal-scorer, Perlini jumped out of juniors with a lethal stick. Playing in 158 games over three years with the Niagara Ice Dogs, Perlini lit the red light 85 times and prompted his draft selection on the first round.
“He is a goal scorer, that what he does,” coach Dave Tippett told The Hockey Writers. “He beats goalies and, like I said, he’s a scorer. It’s nice to see him rewarded.”
In the win, goalkeeper Mike Smith recorded his 22nd shutout in a Coyotes uniform, and that is a franchise record. Smith was tied with Nikolai Khabibulin and Ilya Bryzgalov for the team mark. The win was Smith’s 127 for the Coyotes and now is two victories from tying Bob Essensa (129) for second place. Bryzgalov holds the franchise mark with 130 victories.
“Was I thinking about the record,” Smith rhetorically asked The Hockey Writers. “That did trickle into my brain near the end.”
Captain Shane Doan was involved in a collision with Jakob Chychurn during pre-game warm-ups, and immediately went to the dressing room. Replacing Doan, Radim Vrbata doubled shifted at right wing with Josh Jooris in the middle and Lawson Crouse skating on left wing at the start of the game. Doan returned to the bench late in the first period and took his first shift with under six-minutes remaining in the session.
Doan started the second period and took his first shift on the right wing with his regular linemates Jorris at center and Crouse on left wing at 1:27 of the session. Doan was held out at the start of the game while doctors made a routine examination under the NHL’s concussion protocol.
An indication of the two worst teams in the NHL transpired in the opening period. With the Coyotes holding a 5-4 shot advantage with over nine minutes remaining in the opening session, neither team managed a shot on net for the rest of the period.
For the Coyotes, these numbers were close to season marks. The fewest shots on net for a period was two and that occurred twice this season. In the first period of a game against the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 24, the Coyotes allowed no shots on net.
Mark Brown is a former sports editor for daily newspapers in the Philadelphia and Cincinnati markets. He was named Best Sports Columnist, honorable mention 2004 by the Associated Press Society of Ohio. He is a contributor to major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Sun Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Milwaukee Journal, Arizona Republic, Nashville Tennessean and the Associated Press. He was a Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and covered the Arizona Coyotes.